Photo of Norman Gardner

                   Norman Gardner

	Everyday Heroes Acts That Count

	by Taylor Syphus


	From the Editor: This story first appeared in the January 

12, 1999, edition of The Salt Lake Tribune. Dr. Gardner is a 

longtime leader of the National Federation of the Blind.


	Norman Gardner could beat anyone at a game of blindman's 

buff. For more than thirty years after being born with an eye 

disorder that legally blinded him, he masqueraded as a person who 

could see. He bought into the most poisonous myth about blind 

people: that they are less capable.
	"I was ashamed of being blind," he says. "I didn't want to 

be associated with those weird people who carried white canes and 

had to read Braille. So I played blindman's buff. I could see 

shadows well enough not to bump into things, and I could read 

large print if I was really close to the book."
	He always carried a magnifying glass and made an art of 

hiding in men's rest rooms to review schedules and appointments. 

Academics was Gardner's strong suit. Perseverance made him 

valedictorian of his high school graduating class and earned him 

a bachelor's degree with honors in Spanish from Brigham Young 

University. He earned a doctorate of finance from the University 

of Utah in 1974 and went on to teach finance at Boise State 

University, where his life finally changed.
	"I was tricked into joining the National Federation of the 

Blind," he recalls, laughing. "Two blind students asked me to be 

the Blind Club faculty advisor. I thought, `I'm not one of them. 

I have a Ph.D.; I'm a university professor.' I wanted nothing to 

do with a club that sat around and cried about being blind, but I 

went out of courtesy."
	Instead of being bored to tears, he was intrigued by the 

discussion between the students and the director of the NFB's 

Boise chapter. "They were discussing things I wished I could do," 

Gardner recalls. He joined the NFB that night, on paper and in 

	"They knew me much better than I knew myself," he says, 

smiling. "I learned it was respectable to be blind."
	He thrust himself into everything he had despised about 

blind people. He learned to use a white cane and read Braille. 

Gardner became active in the NFB's political agenda, educating 

Congress and the public about blind people's abilities and 

fighting for laws that would level the playing field for 500,000 

blind Americans.
	"Even though I hadn't realized it growing up, my life had 

been made a lot easier because of people in the NFB working for 

my benefit. Now I'm in the trenches and helping to pull the sled 

	Today Gardner is a professor of finance at Utah Valley State 

College and heavily involved with the local NFB chapter. He pays 

for Braille starter books for elementary-age blind students whose 

teachers otherwise hand-type learning materials on a Braille 

typewriter. He also recruits any blind person he meets to join 

the NFB.
	"For thirty years I sold myself terribly short," he says. 

"But I was given a gift of self-confidence, and now it's my turn 

to help people find a way to do something they didn't believe 

they could."